When Holidays Hurt

Do you have your shopping done?…

Are you going away for the holidays?…

Are you “ready”?…

These innocent questions feel different this year. The baking, shopping and wrapping that has defined many years past suddenly seems trivial. This year feels delicate, like grief has created a thin layer of ice or loss has covered my Christmas like the snow balancing so gently in the trees. This year I have felt the fragility that life brings and I am more aware than ever before of how quickly everything can change. I have been flooded with childhood memories of singing carols by my grandfather’s piano, playing card games with my grandma and sitting on my grandpa’s lap, comforted by the scent of his aftershave and eating candy he magically pulled from his pocket whenever a grandchild came close. And although these memories feel so close, I could touch them, the distance of loss feels infinite. My heart breaks as I see friends and family trying to navigate through the grief that washes over the holidays after the loss of precious loved ones. I watch my own children growing, getting ready to leave the nest and I’m suddenly aware that their childhoods seemed to disappear in a winter breeze. Gone are the days of Christmas concerts and Santa cookies, replaced overnight it seems.

I think we all want to be surrounded by the joy and the laughter that Christmas brings but I also feel the need to honor the feelings of sadness and grief that keep drifting through my heart. Holiday times can hurt hard when we experience the loss of a loved one where memories connected or when family situations change. Grief and loss can make us feel like we are dancing on a sheet of thin ice while we navigate how to move forward, balancing ever so carefully for fear that if we fall through, the veil between the reality of today and the memories past they may just disappear and swallow us in the dark waters of grief.

I’m not fully sure how to move through this dance but I have a few ideas that I’m going to set my intentions to as I move into the Christmas season

  1. I’m going to let myself feel the way I feel. If a memory surfaces that brings grief, joy and sadness, I’m going to invite it to sit with me instead of pushing it away.
  2. I’m going to let myself talk about the people I miss, the memories that have passed and I will bring some of those traditions into my days to honor the people I lost.
  3. I am going to take pictures in my mind consciously of the moments of joy that are there. I will seek laughter, excitement and wonder like a game of I Spy.
  4. I will take breaks when I need them to be alone to reflect or to find a bit of peace.
  5. I will connect and join in when I can, creating new relationships and new traditions.

For those of you who are hurting this holiday, know that you aren’t alone. We are in this together. We will hold each other close this Christmas season.

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